The collection was assembled by Jean and Bill Beale who often bought the works on trips to London, usually to celebrate a birthday or a wedding anniversary. Their purchases were made from galleries including Colnaghi, John Baskett and Richard Day.
Bill Beale worked in the Foreign Office in the 1960s and 70s but, after moving to Oxfordshire in later life, placed the collection on loan to the Ashmolean in the 1990s.
At the auction on February 28, all 14 lots sold for a combined hammer total of just over £69,000. Below is a selection of highlights.
1. Rooker’s ruins
The top lot of the Beale consignment at Mallams was The ruins of an abbey, a signed watercolour by Michael Angelo Rooker (1743-1801) which the couple had acquired from Bond Street dealer John Baskett. Having been on loan to the Ashmolean, most works in the collection were in fine condition which gave them additional appeal. This picture was estimated at £800-1200 but sparked a strong bidding competition which took it to £15,500.
2. Lear’s Ithaca
Dating from May 1863, this pen, ink and watercolour by Edward Lear depicts a view on the Greek island of Ithaca. Inscribed with the title and further notes, it also had a label on the verso for Ashmolean Museum’s Department of Western Art. At the Mallams auction, it exceeded a £6000-8000 estimate and was knocked down at £15,000.
3. Alexander’s bookseller
Another lot that drew a good contest was a small watercolour by William Alexander (1767-1816). The Chinese Bookseller had previously been in the collection of the Earl of Derby and it was another purchase the Beales had bought from John Baskett. Estimated at £800-1000, it was bid to £3400.
4. Rembrandt print
Among the Old Master works on paper in the Beale consignment at Mallams was a Rembrandt (1606-1669) etching, The Circumcision in the stable. A good impression of the second state (earliest state that survives in any numbers - 24 are listed in the artist’s catalogue raisonné), it dated from 1654. Estimated at £3000-5000, it was knocked down at £8000.
5. Waterloo’s village scene
A pen, ink and grey wash drawing by Anthonie Waterloo (c.1610-1690) depicting the outskirts of a village was yet another work that the Beales had acquired from John Baskett. An attractive Dutch scene, it sold at a top-estimate £5000.